Calif. Unemployment Rate Hits New Record

California's unemployment rate hit 11.2 percent in March, the highest rate on record, as the construction, manufacturing and banking industries continued to shed jobs, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

The state's unemployment rate grew from 10.6 percent in February and is nearly 5 points higher than in March 2008.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show it is a historic high. The bureau said only three states -- Michigan, Oregon and South Carolina -- had higher rates in March.

Among the reasons California is hit harder than most other areas during this global economic downturn is the sheer size of its economy and its central role in funneling overseas imports to consumers here, said Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist at UCLA.

"As consumer demand declines all over the country, that gets amplified in the California numbers in our logistics -- transportation and warehousing and ports," he said.

About half the job decline is related to reduced consumer spending in areas such as leisure, hospitality, retail, transportation and housing, Nickelsburg said.

"A bunch of it is manufacturing and of course California manufactures for the world economy, and the world economy is in a recession," he added.

More than 2 million Californians are now out of work, 913,000 more than were jobless one year ago, according to the state figures.

Construction continues to be among the hardest hit sectors in the state in the wake of the collapsed housing, finance and credit markets, losing more than 152,000 jobs since March 2008, an 18.4 percent decline. Manufacturing saw a 7 percent decline for the year.

One area, the educational and health services sector, added nearly 38,000 jobs, a 2.2 percent yearly increase, EDD said.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 8.5 percent in March.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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